Janet Christie: Margaret preferred politics to praying

Our friend Margaret has died. She may have been 97, but it’s too soon, and despite her diminutive frame (“How dare that woman on the Dial-a-Bus call me “tiny”? I’d never call her fat”), she’s left a massive hole in our lives.

We arrive at the crematorium along with the hearse.

“Is Margaret in there?” asks Youngest, voice wobbling. The boys clear their throats.

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“Yes.”

“I don’t want to look.”

“No, look. It’s... cosy.”

She does. “Oh! Nice.”

Margaret’s coffin is wicker, topped by simple, green, architectural blooms.

The service covers a life spanning birth in a room and kitchen in Lochend, to great-grandchildren and friends worldwide.

She preferred politics to praying, so the “opiate of the masses” is absent. Instead there’s Bach, Bruch and Callas, during which memories crowd: sniggering at Joan Rivers one festival... a Tracey Emin exhibition when she’d said: “Shameful to treat a girl needing an abortion like that. Makes me angry. I was pregnant when I married. So what?”... Margaret hiding in a cellar while Zeppelins rained bombs on Leith... listening to her black seaman neighbour (“multiculturalism’s not new”)... giving a speech during the General Strike... Pavlova at the Festival Theatre... her friend’s affair with George Orwell... and sitting at our kitchen table, saying, “Life’s short. Enjoy it.”

Margaret Milne, 25 September 1914 – 11 September 2012.